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The trouble with Unschooling

April 10th, 2009 at 08:50 pm

I have been thinking lately about 'true unschooling' and I am not actually a proper unschooler. The trouble with un-schooling, to me, is that it assumes a child will learn all they need to know without interference...and while that is true it isn't good enough for me.

I know for example that EL will learn English without my help, but I also know that if I point interesting things out to her stressing the name (Apple, would you like Apple? have an Apple, more Apple? all in the space of 5 minutes) she may learn quicker, (or not), she aught to learn what apple is at least. On the other hand she isn't very likely to learn kumquat..but then she doesn't need to. If I wanted her to learn kumquat I aught to go get one and treat it like I did the apple.

I think the same thing applies to older children, they will learn plenty on their own, but if I want something in particular. I prolly aught to teach it (like phonics) but I shouldn't try without relating the lesson to the kid (like getting an apple to eat)

Which is why I like much of Charlotte Masons teaching, while we can't always take a kid to the past or another country, we can use what she calls 'living books' to help bring kids reasons to learn.

She also tends not to place emphasis on what you don't know so we can fill in the gaps (really like in Gods world we could ever hope to know all of it?) instead asking kids to share what they did learn, might not be the exact high points we found, but it is bound to be interesting what they learned.

Bringing kids into the nature we teach them about, and placing real items in their hands, helping the lessons mean something to them (you pick a tree to learn about, doesn't have to all be the same tree for all kids) these are the parts of CM that appeal to me. And in some ways it looks like unschooling, because we are not to terribly worried about having the exact right lessons according to state, and are not taking these lessons out of the real world, (from the real world not out of it). But because we bring interesting lessons to the kids it isn't unschooling.

On the other hand the most important lesson an unschooler can give us is that it will be ok, a child is designed by God to learn, no matter what you do they will, and for the most part they will learn all they need in the world, without a single drop of interference.

So if one lesson isn't sinking in, that is ok, they either wont need it or it will sink in later. When they want-kids have to choose to learn for it to stick, we forget that often because children naturally want to learn, from birth, and I bet before they are naturally inquisitive, it is only after when one drills the curiosity out of them that they stop wanting to learn. (though all children are different, one may be a fountain of questions another more scientist exploring without asking, a third content to skim the surface, a fourth who knows?)

2 Responses to “The trouble with Unschooling”

  1. gamecock43 Says:

    I like that you put so much research into child development and alternative schooling methods. When you say "unschooling" I tend to think you are trying to reteach something they learned wrong, or make them forget something they learned that you wish they had not. So its important to be practical and teach them things they will need for everyday life, its good to get them ahead and maybe work on some "added" knowledge, and then you can rest at night while thinking philosophically that you did all you could and your joy comes from watching them on their journey; not watching their end point.

  2. zakity Says:

    I was an unschooler until last school year. We had to "quit" because I didn't feel like I could unschool math or grammar well. All three boys are wanting to go in fields where those are important (especialy the math part). I am still totally an unschooler at heart. We thought of "unschooling" as basically "no curriculum". It was still child-led, but it wasn't totally child-led.

    We couldn't use books because of some of the learning issues in the mix (one has only been reading for a year and is "grade level"). We looked at everything they needed to learn as a big long list. I would try to figure out how to get them to learn the things they needed using no "bookwork". We did lots of field trips and lots of hands-on type of things. We also had lots of discussions about things. I think the discussions were how they learned most of the information.

    Because of how we had to "school" them, my guys are are "behind" in math and grammar, but they are catching up. They should be "caught up" by the end of this year. But, they are ahead and basically "finished" with science, health, and history. We are definately fit that homeschooling thing of "what grade are they in?" and I ask for what subject they are asking about.

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